After “Paradise Papers,” Without any Public Hearings, Ways and Means Committee takes up Tax Reform Bill


Republicans are attempting to hurriedly ram major tax reform through Congress.

The House Ways and Means Committee started mark-up hearings on Monday, to advance a bill that would re-write the tax code.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) complained at the start of the process about the dearth of any public examination of the proposal in hearings before the influential Ways and Means Committee.

Doggett also decried Trump’s refusal to disclose his own financial holdings–a move that would reveal how he personally stands to be impacted by tax reform.

“If that were not enough, we have a new and unexpected development yesterday,” Doggett said, referring to the release of the so-called Paradise Papers.

On Sunday, journalists published new details about holdings in offshore tax havens. The revelations shed light on tax avoidance schemes used by major American corporations and wealthy US nationals.

The stories included tidbits about Trump administration officials. Chief White House economic adviser Gary Cohn, for example, oversaw 22 different financial vehicles in Bermuda, between 2002 and 2006.

Cohn led Goldman Sachs’ administration of the assets, which had been purchased by the bank from a now-defunct financial arm of General Motors. The Trump aide had worked as a Goldman executive for two decades before joining the White House.

Doggett said that the Paradise Papers “raise new questions about a number of Trump allies, his billionaire buddies and multinational corporations that have so much to gain from today’s bill.”

“Clearly, they won’t be submitting their taxes on a postcard,” Doggett remarked, mocking Republicans’ branding of their reform push as a means of simplifying tax filing. “They may be submitting their taxes in a way that allows them even more tax avoidance than today,” Doggett added.

The Democratic congressman then introduced a motion to delay the start of mark-up hearings until next week. It failed in a vote along strict party lines. The Ways and Means mark-up process is expected to take four days to complete.

Tax reform has been a major goal of Republicans since President Trump’s election. At the bill’s unveiling last week, Trump described it as “a giant tax cut for Christmas.”

“We are giving them a big, beautiful Christmas present in the form of a tremendous tax cut,” the President said.

Republicans’ plan includes penalties for American companies who keep certain assets offshore. It would also reduce the pre-deduction corporate tax, rate, to 20 percent from 35 percent, while offering a temporary repatriation tax holiday to encourage the return of money to the US.

Analysts have questioned what kind of positive economic impact, if any, the temporary relief will have. A similar repatriation scheme took place in 2004–the last time Republicans held both the executive and legislative branches of government.

In 2011, the Congressional Research Service said the policy had no positive impact on “domestic investment or employment,” as CBS noted.

Jack Blum, an ex-Senate staffer told Bloomberg that the Republican plan is “very weak” on tackling tax avoidance.

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Since 2010, Sam Knight's work has appeared in Truthout, Washington Monthly, Salon, Mondoweiss, Alternet, In These Times, The Reykjavik Grapevine and The Nation. In 2012, he worked as a producer for The Alyona Show on RT. He has written extensively about political movements that emerged in Iceland after the 2008 financial collapse, and is currently working on a book about the subject.


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